Thursday, March 3, 2011

Getting Gendered

My wife and I had a recent discussion of the gendering that takes place in our culture, in particular to clothing. Since I grew up with all brothers I can't say that I ever really paid attention to some of the things that I notice now that I have two daughters. I notice when the Christian Century writes about a man and his "accomplished wife," knowing full well that they would never write about a woman and her "accomplished husband." That is gendered language.

But, one of the things that is really striking to me is the differences between clothing departments in stores. The disparity is enormous and so obvious that I can't believe I never saw it before. If you want to buy anything dealing with sports it simply cannot be found in a girls department. There are no shirts about baseball, soccer, even softball, not even in "feminine" pink. They simply don't exist. We are almost 30 years away from the passage of Title IX, the US women's soccer team has won the World Cup,and I can't buy a t-shirt for my daughter about sports. Now I can go into sports or team stores and find clothing, but it's in pink, because heaven forbid we should have girls in non-female colors.

Now my wife was saying that she is happy with the recent move that the NFL has made in making clothing tailored for women's shapes (although the MLB has been doing this for a while). My response was that the clothing had been "sexualized" in that it was tailored tightly so that women could be seen showing off what men want to see and what our society often says is the only thing that women are good for, which is sex and sexuality.

She disagreed and said they were simply making clothing that is better cut for the female body. I don't disagree with that, but if you look at the NFL adds, it is skinny, white women with larger breasts who are wearing these shirts. To me it is just another example of gendering. Women are being told that they can be sports fans as long as the are being/doing sexy at the same time. Do you have to feel sexy in order to root for the Patriots? Apparently you do.

Along the same lines, a blog site called "sociological images" which tracks the treatment of women in the media recently posted this image from a website which allows you to try on virtual glasses so you can see how they might look on you. You can upload your own photo or you may use their sample images:

Notice anything about the images used? The blog is quick to point out that the pictures of the men contain different ages (including people with wrinkles), different body builds, different facial structures and even different shades of pigment. The women, however, are all white, they are all young and skinny, their facial structures are nearly identical, and they all have blond hair, although one is slightly darker than the others.

So what are we saying about the difference between men and women in these pictures? We clearly have an established look for what is beautiful, not that this should come as any surprise, and for women about the only variable possible is eye color, and to be honest I'm surprised that they didn't just photoshop them all to blue. So how do you tell if the glasses will look good on you if you don't look like this? I think the answer is, it doesn't matter, because if you don't look like these girls you simply don't look good period.

These women don't represent humanity, although we are told they do, and I'm sure they can't buy a good shirt about sports either.

No comments:

Post a Comment